The power of the TV companies to control the scheduling of fixtures in the Premier League is illustrated by the fact that one of the biggest matches of the season is being played on Monday night. The fixture between Liverpool and Manchester United has massive global appeal so it seems bizarre when there are some ordinary matches being shown live over the weekend that this blockbuster is being played on a Monday.
The first live match of the weekend brings together the two last two champions at Stamford Bridge. It seems like another era when Chelsea and Jose Mourinho were the best team in England and its even more hard to fathom out that Leicester are the current champions of the Premier League. They were never going to successfully defend but they have made a solid start and look like making the last 16 of the Champions League while Chelsea are not playing in Europe this season.
In between the first and last live matches of the schedule there are three uninspiring fixtures that only the fans of the teams involved will be relishing with great anticipation. Crystal Palace host a West Ham still in trouble, Watford face a long journey to the north-east to play Middlesbrough while Southampton welcome Burnley. The treble on the three home teams pays a healthy 6/1.
In the good old days Liverpool or Manchester United won the league and every now and again a London team got involved. Liverpool dominated English football in the 1970’s and 1980’s when they were champions of the old First Division 11 times. United knocked them off their perch under Alex Ferguson but their last Premier League winning season was in 2012-13 and Manchester City are the favourites to oblige this time. Tottenham could have a say and Arsenal will get in the picture.
Jurgen Klopp needed three seasons to turn Borussia Dortmund from mid-table reliability to Bundesliga champions and it could take at least that long for the German to make Liverpool the champions of England again. They missed out on qualifying for Europe via the league position route and lost in two Cup finals to Manchester City and Sevilla. Klopp will have free midweeks to prepare his team and that did wonders for Leicester last season.
Manchester United have not been totally convincing despite spending a fortune and it could go horribly wrong for Mourinho again. The notable arrivals including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba have made a difference and an aggressive transfer policy has given United a great chance of returning to the Champions League and contending for the title but losing to Liverpool would me a massive blow. United would take a point and that is how events might transpire in a low-scoring match.
If Liverpool do win this fixture they would be six points ahead of United who could be then eight points off the pace. Tottenham are the only undefeated team in the Premier League and they made a massive statement by beating City at White Hart Lane. The visitors coached by the supposed best in the business in Pep Guardiola didn’t have a Plan B and Tottenham were worthy winners. Despite losing the plot at the end of last season and several players being involved in the debacle that was England in the Euros for the most part Tottenham were the side most likely to overhaul Leicester at the top of the table.
The champions look destined for mid-table safety this season, not in the mix to win the league again and not threatened by relegation. We could have a scenario whereby the last two winners of the Premier League have finished tenth or worse the following season and not qualify for the Champions League, though Leicester could get in it next season by being champions of Europe this time.
Chelsea have already lost two league games this season. They were outplayed by Liverpool at home and second best to Arsenal on the road. Before winning 2-0 at Hull they had conceded eight goals in four matches which is very un-Italian and must have driven Antonio Conte mad. He is an excellent coach who galvanised Italy to produce more than the sum of their parts at Euro 2016. The squad is full of Premier League champions and they are contenders but they must beat Leicester to stay in the race which also applies to Manchester United at Liverpool.
Have a fantastic weekend!
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